Ina Opperman
Business Journalist
2 minute read
23 Jul 2022
6:30 am

Your rights when shopping for sales and promotions

Ina Opperman

It is important to know your rights if an item on sale is suddenly ‘out of stock’.

Image: iStock

Knowing your rights when you shop for sales and promotions is important in the current financial times of ever-increasing prices for fuel and food. Finding cheaper prices can keep some households afloat and a special that is not available or sold out can really mess up your day.

Fortunately, there is hope if you want to complain when you shop for sales. Store management cannot simply mumble something about ‘a mistake’ and then they are off the hook. The Consumer Protection Act (CPA) is very clear about the fact that specials must be handled in a particular way, while the Ombudsman for Consumer Goods and Services also issued an advice note about the issue.

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What sections 23 and 30 say about sales

Section 23 of the CPA, about the disclosure of price of goods and services, states in sub-section 6 that a store cannot require a consumer to pay a price for any goods or services that is higher than the displayed price for those goods or services or, if more than one price is displayed, higher than the lower or lowest of the price.

According to sub-section 9, the store is not bound by an inadvertent and obvious error that has been fixed and reasonable steps were taken to inform consumers who could have seen the erroneous price.

Section 30 of the CPA, about bait marketing, states that a store is not allowed to advertise goods or services at a specified price that can mislead or deceive consumers about the actual availability of the goods or services at the advertised price. If a store advertises particular goods or services as available at a specified price and the advertisement expressly states a limitation in availability, the supplier must make those goods or services available at that price.

ALSO READ: Why did food become so expensive?

What the ombudsman says about sales

According to the ombudsman’s advice note, an agreement is made when a consumer accepts an offer to buy something. However, an advertisement is not an offer, but an invitation to make an offer to buy.

However, the CPA actually goes further than the common law in section 23(6) and stipulates that the displayed price becomes a binding offer that becomes a contract as soon as the consumer accepts it by offering to pay for it.

If an advertisement specifies a number of goods that can be bought at a special price, the store is bound to sell that number of goods at that price in line with section 30, even if it is changed later by putting up a notice in the store.

It is therefore clear that stores must sell goods at the lowest advertised or displayed price and take the responsibility for the risk and costs of the mistakes. If the displayed price is wrong, the store is responsible until the mistake is corrected.